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Black Shark 5 Pro: excellent gaming phone, priced right

Gaming smartphones are on the rise — as the hardware becomes more powerful and as developers become more adept at coding for the mobile platforms, games become deeper, more rewarding, and closer to their console counterparts.

For a good example of this, look no further than the new Apex Legends Mobile game, which mimics the console experience perfectly.

But a smartphone has its limitations — when you are limited to just a touch screen input, it’s easy to fumble your controls and fail in fights that you should have won.

Well, the new Black Shark phone will enhance your gaming sessions with a multitude of customizable hardware controls, to the point where you will wonder “how can anyone game without one of these?”.

Black Shark 5 Pro: excellent hardware controls

Black Shark is a brand that specializes in gaming smartphones and their experience in making such devices shows. The Black Shark 5 Pro comes with two mechanical shoulder triggers that sit flush inside the phone’s body. Once it’s time to game — you can engage the triggers, which will pop out and be ready for use.

They are placed comfortably and they offer a very reassuring click, which is a must for precision aim and gaming. But the hardware controls do not end there.

The screen of the Black Shark 5 Pro has two pressure sensitive areas — basically, pushing down with your left or right thumb can activate two extra commands.

For example, I have my setup for the aforementioned Apex Mobile like this — left and right shoulder buttons are used for aim and shoot, naturally. Then, pushing down with my left thumb results in a crouch (or slide as I sprint) and pushing down with my right thumb is jump.

So, without moving my fingers around the phone in any way, I have access to 4 different buttons — as if I am holding a controller.

Black Shark 5 Pro: design and display

Gaming phones typically have super-aggressive designs that scream out “high-tech gaming device here!”. If you are not necessarily a fan of that aesthetic, the Black Shark 5 Pro may appeal to you.

It still has that high-tech graphic on its back, but it’s more muted, elegantly hidden behind a frosted glass back. There’s also an RGB LED light back there, but it’s discrete and non-obnoxious.

The phone as a whole still looks as a daily accessory, instead of a mobile console.

Then, there’s the screen — an excellent 6.67-inch OLED panel with a 144 Hz refresh rate and an incredible 720 Hz touch polling rate. It’s HDR10+ compliant, so you can watch you favorite media when taking breaks from gaming.

Black Shark 5 Pro hardware and speakers

A gaming phone needs gaming hardware. It’s no surprise that the Black Shark 5 Pro is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. For memory, it comes in different combinations, from 256 GB storage and 8 GB RAM to 512 GB storage and 16 GB RAM.

Performance is more than satisfactory, as I had no qualms about turning every game up to the highest setting it would allow and just proceeded to enjoy it.

We’ve got two speakers situated in a stereo setup and placed in such a manner that you can’t block them when holding the phone in landscape. They can get quite loud and sufficiently deep, so listening for footsteps or getting a nice hit of dopamine every time you score a headshot are both achievable.

Black Shark 5 Pro software

Of course, there are multiple software enhancements made specifically for gamers. On the surface, the software on the Black Shark 5 Pro (called Joy UI 13) looks a lot like Xiaomi’s MIUI. However, once you engage Shark Space (the gaming hub), it transforms to give you all the goodies that Black Shark has been cooking up.

Shark Space can block all incoming notifications, purge your RAM, and lock brightness as soon as you launch a game, so your phone is effectively turned into a mini gaming console with no interruptions. If you are feeling a bit cheeky, you can also pre-program “macros” — a series of taps and actions that the phone can automatically perform with a single touch of a button. You can stream your gameplay or you can record yourself.

Black Shark 5 Pro camera

We have a 108 MP camera on the back, which by default takes 12 MP photos with pixels binned in groups of 9, and an aperture of F1.75, which makes for some creamy bokeh once you get close.

Aside from that, there's a 13 MP ultra-wide camera and 5 MP macro camera to assist when you want to get too close... or capture something way too big.

The front camera has a 16 MP resolution, which should come in handy if you choose to stream your mobile gaming escapades!

Black Shark 5 Pro battery

The Black Shark 5 Pro has a 4,650 mAh battery inside, which was good enough to last me through a day. Admittedly, gaming on the highest settings really did eat through those percentages, but I was never worried. You know why?

It comes with a 120 W charger! Yup, the brick in the Black Shark 5 Pro’s box is more powerful than the wallplug of your average laptop. You can top it up in about 15 minutes, if you are in a pinch.

If you are worried about battery health — there are toggles in the phone’s settings that can limit the super-fast charging when you don’t need it. That way, you get the best of both worlds — you can top up really fast when you need to, you can use it as a normal charger when you’re not in a hurry.

Black Shark 5 Pro conclusion

Despite its top-tier hardware and the extra hardware controls, the Black Shark 5 Pro still starts at $800, which is excellent, considering the amount of tech it packs.

If you want the stereo speakers, magnetic triggers, and super-fast screen, but would rather save some money — the non-Pro Black Shark 5 starts at $549, powered by a Snapdragon 870. Hey, it’s not overkill, but it will still do the job!

On its own, the Black Shark 5 series offer a lot of value for gaming on the go, thanks to the aforementioned controls that really enhance the experience. But there are also extra Black Shark accessories that you can add on — an actual hardware controller with a stick and a few buttons, and a fan to keep the phone cool.

And then, it can very much act like your casual everyday phone — just retract the triggers and enjoy the sleek look.

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